Stay | Review | PS4

ss_ceb91fbfce996145c4d21a5ce965f12ba52e0eb6.1920x1080.jpg

Stay will stay with you.

Quite literally.

The game is still technically being played even when you aren’t actually playing it. In one of the more fantastic mechanics i’ve ever seen in an indie title (or any title for that matter) every second you spend away from your virtual companion is a second that he is left alone, to his own devices. In Quinn’s case…this is quite dangerous.

Not since i first picked up a Tamagotchi as a child have i ever expelled so much guilt about the idea of leaving my virtual buddy to their lonesome. I guess i should explain why this matters so much in Stay.

ss_715a99a74ab2c9eddc5253fc2f30faf6def204eb.1920x1080.jpg

Quinn is/was a psychiatrist who gets bopped over the head one day and wakes up in a dark room with nothing but a solitary desk, chair and a computer for company.

In this understandably scary predicament there is one bright light to hold onto. Upon sending out a chat room style SOS for help, Quinn makes a connection to the outside world. Someone who can help him navigate his current dilemma and potentially see him through to the other side.

You.

ss_687bb062576d591140423f929bdaefd71c1f4e53.1920x1080.jpg

The game plays in a few parts, the largest of which is a continuous chat message that you have running with Quinn, he will ramble about various things and occasionally you get to chime in with a thought, idea, question or suggestion from a selection of choices. You get to read what you are about to type before sending it – which in some cases is a god send – because Quinn is…shall we say…fragile.

The game toys with a lot of themes of mental health, depression, anxiety and an overall feeling of hopelessness. Beginning the game will actually give you a warning of some of the more intense narratives within and even offers you a link to a real world connection if you are feeling any of the above emotions yourself.

Heavy stuff.

ss_b5f148eb104860f45a460ad7cbc25a36bf834a47.1920x1080.jpg

The thing about Stay is that as much as your prime instinct as a gamer is to just help Quinn escape, given his fragile mental state, you can sometimes do more harm than good by merely focussing on that and ignoring the more personal nature of your relationship to Quinn. Keeping him sane is as important as keeping him alive.

Which is why when you turn the game off, and time starts ticking, or you take too long to answer a comment – he may start to feel those dark emotions creeping in. Leading to perpetually more serious discussions.

The point during my play through that this really started to sink in was after Quinn was opening his heart to me – i made a comment equivalent to “Why don’t you just cheer up” – i’m paraphrasing – but right after i sent it, i knew it was the wrong thing to say. I would never say something as flippant like that to someone in real life suffering. In the game it seemed more jovial though. Less important.

That was until Quinn flipped his shit, called me on my platitude and promptly smashed his device, ending our communication…and my game.

ss_cd1d7a5a8cca622662b6456e15937e6a6eff9542.1920x1080.jpg

This isn’t the only time Quinn left me abruptly. Several decisions can lead to an untimely end for Quinn. I had to replay several chapters over and over again to pick the exact order of phrasing that would allow Quinn to escape what seemed like the inevitable at that point.

I found myself caring quite deeply for Quinn. Suffering from a variety of mental health issues myself, it was all too easy to imagine myself in his shoes. It almost made me more determined to see him through to the end of his journey, regardless of how hard that may be.

Incidentally, it is VERY hard.

Not the communication. Not the trial and error. The damned puzzles.

The puzzles run the gauntlet of relatively simple, to basically impossible. They actually made the game less enjoyable for me.

ss_9cc4449cc61358352a444b81b79269d297f488ae.1920x1080.jpg

Don’t get me wrong. I love a good puzzle. These puzzles are on another level though.

People have literally had to reach out to the developers for clues on some of them. Not least because they are occasionally entirely procedural, so they don’t work the same for everybody, but most of them have absolutely ZERO level of any kind of instruction AT ALL.

Nothing telling you the controls, nothing telling you which parts move and which don’t, nothing telling you the goal, just absolute madness to behold and figure out.

I am not a smart man, but i’m no fool. On some of these puzzles i took over 40 minutes to get anywhere close to an answer, and those were considered the easy ones.

ss_48640cbd4b9b151b211e653b581c6f8670c3cc52.1920x1080.jpg

It’s a shame really, because i LOVED the story so much. I really wanted to get to the bottom of this house of mysteries, but got so fed up of having to go to Youtube on pretty much every chapter excluding the first few (and there are 24) just to figure out the answer. Sometimes even with it spelled out in video form i still struggled to get to completion.

It went from a game i was falling in love with due to a strong narrative tale on a subject matter close to my heart, to an absolute lesson in frustration.

Ultimately you shouldn’t let this put you off. Puzzles are supposed to be hard, and you’ll definitely get your moneys worth out of these. If you are considering a purchase to dig your way through a dark story told in a unique format, you may find yourself put off by the mental acrobatics you are forced to perform towards the ending chapters of Stay though.

ss_e6b650891ef4537334bf8fabd644db338ad4b257.1920x1080.jpg

All in all, Stay is a fantastic title.

Amazing dialogue, compelling narrative, unique gameplay elements, albeit slightly marred by frustrating puzzles.

You can view the first 30 minutes of the game below and judge for yourself if it’s worth picking up.

Stay is available now on PS4, Xbox One, Switch & PC/Mac.

This Is The Police 2 | Review | PS4

ss_3253d04d0bae385afffaa3c84ce4f1b02f0954c5.1920x1080.jpg

This Is The Police 2 takes off shortly after the previous game ends, with Jack Boyd (voiced by Jon St. John from Duke Nukem) in a whole heap of trouble.

After getting in too deep with Mafia goons in the first game, Jack ends up essentially hiding in a town called Sharpwood, who’s freshly minted young female Sheriff Lilly Reed (voiced by Sarah Hamilton from The Longest Journey) is struggling to maintain law and order in her own precinct, let alone the entire town of Sharpwood.

ss_607ecfa76739d4121a632ca414cab53825245cf6.1920x1080.jpg

Circumstances conspire (I won’t ruin it, it’s one of the more tense scenes in the game) that essentially lead to Jack half-taking up his old moniker and helping Lilly keep her men in line by taking over some of the more gritty, day to day duties of being a Sheriff.

Thus the game begins.

It does take a WHILE to get to this point though…approximately 55 minutes to my count.

Much like the first game This Is The Police 2 is heavy on exposition. Don’t expect to jump right in and start barking orders. The scene has to be set for Jack to take that stage, so in turn we’re treated to a Fargo-esque small town drama to really let it all sink in before taking up the mantle of (kind of) chief again. Haters of slower paced games turn back now, you have been warned.

ss_fcbc63755eaba1675c43f804308cc00e801f356c.1920x1080.jpg

If you do enjoy a good narrative tale though, especially that of the noir detective variety, you’ll find yourself falling madly in love with the over-arching tension behind the story in This Is The Police 2. I wouldn’t say playing the first game is a necessity, but it would help with your appreciation of the yarn being spun. Especially since some of the earlier moments in the game have you directly commenting on matters from the first in the series. You can easily blag your way through these though and shape the narrative to fit however you see best.

So then…onto the nuts and bolts – the gameplay.

ss_e071d4f753c64557fe7630670ac47bf836949725.1920x1080.jpg

This Is The Police 2 is a mash up of several games – all of them strategy based.

The visual novel elements are simply there to give each day and decision more pertinence. The meat and potatoes comes in the form of an excellent strategy title that has you over seeing everything from the day to day shift selection of officers on your force, the weapons they’ll be carrying, the calls they’ll be dispatched to, what they do whilst on those calls and much, much more.

One of the more interesting (and requested) features of the new entry is the ability to actually play an X-Com-like mini game on more dangerous scenarios. A fully realized and hyper stylized turn-based assault on a vicinity. Your goal is to take down the bad guys, but with all things This Is The Police – shooting them in the face is also an option.

ss_a2fbe1b8353dca767810f7bb5274591bc4d33739.1920x1080.jpg

Surprising amounts of detail have gone into these operations, and each one feels like a treat away from the sometimes more mundane day-to-day police work. Your officers that get downed or killed during these missions were supposed to be on your watch, and they were supposed to go to work tomorrow, and now they have funerals that other officers want to attend. If you say no because you’re short staffed – well – they may just respect you a lot less. Cops that don’t respect their chief can be a royal pain in the ass and do anything from nitpicking their partners to just straight up refusing to help you.

The weight of every decision is felt with immediacy in a lot of cases, other times it springs up at the worst possible time. For the majority of the game, every time is the worst possible time.

ss_ec267df2df66ae9817b70ba985bb81599a25a028.1920x1080.jpg

Alongside dispatching people to 911 calls, and assaulting criminal hide outs, there are also investigations to be had. These will crop up in the weirdest places and once accepted, also need to have officers assigned to work them.

You’ll need to be smart about your selection of officers assigned to each case, if they’re donning the deerstalkers, they’ll need to be smart. they won’t be able to help you with calls for the majority of the day, so the better damn well find some clues.

Like an idiot, i kept putting my least favored folks on the investigations and they kept coming up empty. Leading me spend even more time trying to get to the bottom of things and having even less resources on a daily basis. Don’t skimp on the brains for these, they’ll pay dividends in the long run.

ss_7c2fed5292bf004b6998ac0176d4d8a1e9ba8815.1920x1080.jpg

This may all seem like a lot to swallow, that’s because it is.

This Is The Police 2 can appear brutally hard at times. You’ll have good days and bad days, but the really bad ones tend to stick it in and break it off.

You’ll find yourself resenting the idiot that keeps coming in drunk after they miss a shot and kill a civilian, or crash their car and end up hospitalized for days. You’ll find yourself questioning why you didn’t just can them the second they turned up, then you remember that a shitty cop on your force to deal with the less serious situations is more useful than no cop at all. Even if they are a liability.

It’s the micro-management aspects of the title that keep you coming back. This game took everything about the first title that people loved and expanded on it ten fold. Everything is more stylized, the art is unique and gorgeous, the story is drama-filled and action-packed, the decisions are more brutal and heart wrenching than ever – it’s impossible to not start actually favoring some of your officers over others. Which is usually when tragedy sets in.

ss_00f90f72fa5e0248e55743fee4c7ee18216b05ba.1920x1080.jpg

I thoroughly enjoyed my time with This Is The Police 2 and asides from having to sit through mountains of exposition, i can see high replayability value in making a few different calls and setting yourself up for success early. Something as simple as making sure one of your officers has a taser on their person when attending certain scenes can make all the difference.

If you loved the first game, this is a no brainer. If you never played the first game, but like what you’ve read so far – give it a shot – you may be pleasantly surprised.

For further convincing, please take some time to get an idea for how the game works by watching our gameplay video below. I would go ahead and skip the first 55 minutes or so if you’re only interested in core gameplay and don’t want to spoil any story elements.

This Is The Police 2 is available on September 25th for PS4, Xbox One & PC/Mac/Linux.